Memories of the “biorobot”: myths and the truth about volunteers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant
Memories of the “biorobot”: myths and the truth about volunteers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant

From the memoirs of Andrei Kulish, the Colonel and veteran of the Armed Forces:

“… Have you ever heard that, knowing at least some truth about the Chernobyl accident, at least some living soul would voluntarily come to the draft board in order to agree to work on liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident from feelings of patriotism? Even the most fanatical communists hid their eyes at the mention of mobilization, including secretaries of the city and regional committees of the “invincible Leninist party.” I always affirm that if such a volunteer were found somewhere, then the “political leaders with party secretaries” would take him everywhere by the arms, just as an alive icon!

What I know about the riot

Everyone, including myself, heard in the troops of the 30-kilometer zone and in the operational headquarters whispering about “soldier riots” in units that arrived from the Leningrad, Ural and other military districts. These units, formed from mobilized residents of various regions of Russia and from the Baltic republics, were based outside the exclusion zone, in the Gomel region.

They did not work at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and had never even seen it. The “newcomer” was tasked with saving the Belarusian fields and farms: cutting off the affected soil layer, destroying the livestock affected by strontium … These units rebelled against poor living conditions and nutrition.

And when we measured the radiation around, we also realized what situation we were in. When they were informed that their mobilization would last at least 45 days, the “partisans” realized that they would have to at least say goodbye to their own health or even life …

I do not blame anyone, especially the Balts. They always kept apart under the Union, and then, having seen SUCH one, everyone thought: “What the hell do I need this? To die for some kind of international debt? To whom and what should I?!” In short, the visitors tried to “make troubles”.

The “KGB specialists” arrived instantly and easily isolated the “instigators”. The intendants threw increased stew norms into the masses, and the political leaders hung red banners everywhere. The riot has faded. Further, the “rebel” units were slowly sent home.

The situation was different with the Ukrainians

Almost all military units operating in the disaster area, inside the Exclusion Zone, for the most part were formed from residents of Ukraine. The Kiev Military District became the main one in the Exclusion Zone, and took on the most difficult work to implement measures aimed at eliminating the consequences of the Chernobyl accident.

There was no attempt of an open riot among Ukrainians. According to national custom, the mobilized Ukrainian guys sadly bowed their heads: “We aren`t going anywhere.” They began to do everything according to great-grandfather’s custom, together. However, all of them, torn from their wives and children, very painfully and acutely experienced their absence at home: “How are mine there, without me?!”

The Government Commission and the military command were scattered and could not make ends meet in the first weeks of “liquidation”. Sometimes the battalions staffed by soldiers lounged all day, because the command did not know what TO ORDER, civil servants did not know what TO DO, and scientific experts did not know how TO ACT.

In turn, thousands of adult family men, torn from peaceful life by force, were quietly indignant: “What the hell were we brought here? Why are they keeping us here?!” And the decontamination of the villages of the Zone began only after the first week of forced idleness.

Work has began: some ran the filling stations, others drove water and decontaminating substances, still others prepared solutions, and others threw water to the rural houses with powerful deactivating streams. It was at least some real work.

However, the soldiers continued to resent

A mobilized physics teacher from Luben, pouring slate on a house with a deactivating solution, shouted deafly through a respirator in a professional teacher’s tone: “This is all stupid, all useless! The half-life of plutonium is thousands of years! And what’s the point of draining dust from the roof into the yard? – So that the weeds grow succulent?! Yes, the late Frederic Joliot Curie just laughs at us in his grave … “

The ridiculous orders of the command were perceived at first glance particularly difficult by the arrivals from the reserve. Such as, for example, mopping the giant turbine halls of the first or third reactors. Or to lay linoleum with endless multi-kilometer corridors of a nuclear power plant. The people angrily resented aloud: “Did I come here to wash the floors or to lay linoleum? Will it save Ukraine ?! The potato is not sprouted in Khorol; the Colorado potato beetle eats it … ”

I still do not know the purpose of that ill-fated linoleum. Some argued that it would be easier to flush out radioactive dust. Chernobyl has long been closed. Interestingly, has that linoleum already rotted in the corridors of the station? It was only later, much later, that there were really not enough people, so really important and complex tasks appeared instead of linoleum. Especially when the soldiers began to quickly gain the maximum permissible dose of radiation. It was then that “volunteers” finally appeared in the 30-kilometer zone, to the delight of the political leaders and party organizers.

One evening, the commander of the regiment, Major S. decided to hold open party meetings for the soldiers so that they do something. He unexpectedly heard “initiative from the masses” there… After the performance of the regimental party organizer “On the decisions of a regular Plenum …”, several irritated Poltava residents resolutely suggested: “We are ready to carry out the most difficult and dangerous tasks, but so that they send us immediately home!” And he explained to his surprised friends: “What are you laughing at?! The sooner we get the allowable dose of 25 x-rays, the sooner we will go home! ” Everyone got very excited about this thought, supported the Poltava residents, and more than enough such “volunteers” immediately appeared!

People consciously rushed to the most dangerous places in order to “get the maximum dose” as soon as possible

Only then, under such exceptional circumstances, “volunteers” glorified in newspapers finally appeared in the 30-kilometer zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant – from among those who had ALREADY been brought there, who had ALREADY been there. Radio and television unanimously voiced about the “volunteer initiative of warriors.”

In fact, as there is often the case with us, the mobilized guys were guided by personal motivations: “Even to hell, but we want to get home soon!” …Here is an example: in early August, the first and second battalions of our regiment demolished the base and uprooted several hectares of red forest in a week or two, with a minimum of engineering equipment.

Initially, it was a dense pine, but a powerful emission of radiation occurred as a result of a reactor explosion, the needles of pines became red. The radiation level in the red forest “went off scale” so that plates were scattered in the batteries of the APCs, but the guys did not pay attention to this. They were very eager to go home, to families and their houses, to their gardens, sheds and kitchen gardens. Therefore, platoons and companies simply refused to leave work, so they would rather “pick up a dose” of 25 X-rays!

The guys were in a hurry to perform the suicidal “demobilization chord”.

The officers were nervous and tried not to exceed the safe working time, but the dosimeters and hours continued to scary every minute. There is another example. With the same enthusiasm, several 140-meter tunnels under an incandescent reactor were instantly laid almost manually by hand.

Over the course of several days, it was digged and arranged by Donetsk “kamikaze volunteers” in order to return home as soon as possible. They were digging like crazy, and the uranium-graphite mass was still melting behind the concrete floors above their heads. I don’t know if at least one of the miners is still alive… But it didn’t happen as intended, the Zone did not allow itself to be outwitted.

The fact is that it was never possible to accurately predict or “plan a dose” by accumulating x-rays at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and its environs. One could roughly estimate that there is a chance to get about 20 x-rays at a time in a certain place, but in reality one could “catch all 120” in that place.

Moreover, such a picture could be expected everywhere, including the most unexpected places. It was impossible to predict: how, where and for how many minutes or seconds a smaller or a larger dose will “fly” to you.

Radiation is not vodka, you can’t evenly pour it into glasses and you won’t get ready for a hangover… Already in the autumn and winter, the former “volunteers” overcrowded all hospitals in the Poltava region, the Kiev region, the Zhytomyr region and other areas, so that there weren’t enough places even in hospital corridors …

You will ask why I describe the “heroism of the liquidation of the Chernobyl accident” in such an unsightly light? I explain. The current 40-year-old Ukrainians know almost nothing about those events, even if the word “Chernobyl” was remembered from childhood. And what can we say about today’s youngest? They generally imagine those events exclusively with the virtual game “STALKER”.

For the present young generation, the Chernobyl disaster is the same distant and imaginary story, which was the First World War at one time for us. If my front-line grandfather had not told me everything that he had seen with his own eyes, I would still have imagined that long-standing war in the textbooks of the 70s.

If my father, a front-line soldier of World War II, had not told me the whole truth about the true events of the Great Patriotic War, then I would still know about it only on the basis of the “little rattle” of the scriptwriters, or in the light of the fantasy of the directors …

That’s actually, that’s why I share my memories, I just want to help future historians and researchers during the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident to prevent the birth of new myths and another lie.